2019 League of Legends World Championship brings together the best teams in the world for the biggest event of the year. 24 teams fought their way to the event, but only one will become the 2019 World champion.
Every team at the event has its own strengths and weaknesses. This is the first Worlds for many of the competitors, and they will be looking to make every game count.
The power rankings are a fundamental part of Worlds, especially this year when every team is bringing something different to the event.
From first-timers to repeat champions, this list includes the strongest teams in the tournament. Starting with the team that looks like the front runner that is set to transcend European hype, SK Telecom T1.
1. SK Telecom T1
- SKT became the first team to win eight LCK titles
- SKT is the only team with three World Championship titles
SKT has come a long way since its participation at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. Even though SKT was one of the favorites to take the title then, the team lost in the semifinals against G2 Esports. When SKT returned to the LCK, things were not any better. The team started the summer split with a five-game losing streak that threatened to end their season early.
In an episode of The Locker Room, the SKT players were shown sitting around the waiting room discussing the current standings. Lee “Faker” Sang-heyok reassured his teammates and said that the only thing they had to do was win the next 13 games, and that it wasn’t that difficult. His teammates were shocked by this. How could Faker believe that winning 13 consecutive games wasn’t difficult?
Weeks later, SKT made it to playoffs after achieving 11 such victories.
SKT was predicted by some to lose every single match of playoffs. No matter the opponent, SKT came in as the underdog because many believed that their time at the top had passed. But game after game, SKT proved that you cannot bet against them.
Many continue to doubt SKT. Analysts are frequently putting the LCK champions in second place, or even third, as people buy further into the hype surrounding G2. This ignores the clear improvement that SKT has shown since MSI, however.
The strength from SKT comes from its mid-jungle duo. Kim “Clid” Tae-min and Faker are arguably the best players in their respective roles at Worlds. The duo often go for picks that allow them to push the tempo and establish early priority.
In the mid game, SKT slows things down and gets methodical before closing out games. The players still look for opportunities to close games faster, but they don’t take unnecessary risks that could undermine their lead. That reluctance to take risks starts in the draft, as the players often take comfort picks and rarely try anything innovative.
SKT is part of the “group of death” at Worlds alongside Royal Never Give Up, Clutch Gaming, and Fnatic. These opponents will put SKT’s strength to the test. The result from the group stage will define the rest of the tournament for SKT.
2. G2 Esports
- G2 won back-to-back LEC titles
- G2 is the first European team to win the MSI
2019 is the year of G2. The European squad has taken over competitive League of Legends and become a trendsetter that other teams around the globe try to emulate. They’re young and reckless risk-takers that shrug it off when things don’t go their way. In the LEC summer split, G2 continued to dominate the competition and at times looked almost bored in the process.
The final weeks of the split showed a lot about G2 however, exposing some weaknesses in a team that had looked unstoppable. This starts with jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, who has become the primary catalyst for the team. Whenever the enemy targets Jankos, G2 seems to struggle in regaining control of the map.
That weakness is exploitable but still small, so G2 will have a strong chance of succeeding if they can remain flexible. In the LEC summer finals versus Fnatic, G2 went back to standard compositions with a mage in the bottom lane. G2 can play a different style, picking a variety of champions and swapping their players around dynamically.
Out of all of the teams at the event, G2 is perhaps the most versatile. That ability to adapt and change will give the European champions an edge over almost any opponent.
3. FunPlus Phoenix
- This is the first time FunPlus Phoenix has qualified for Worlds
- Doinb played 20 different champions in the mid lane in summer, including Nocturne and Kennen
Any discussion of FunPlus Phoenix starts with mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. The identity of the team revolves around its crafty mid laner and that makes it the most flexible team from China at Worlds.
FunPlus doesn’t funnel all of its resources into one player like RNG. Doinb uses his own advantages to support the side lanes and help his team to better fight or scale. The players understand how to play together, something that will come in handy when they face the stiff competition at Worlds.
FunPlus’ main advantages are Doinb and jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang, a duo that is second only to Clid and Faker. Doinb and Tian are a selfless pair with perfect synergy. If Doinb comes up with a plan, Tian knows how to execute it and vice versa. This year, having a strong mid-jungle duo is a significant advantage that not every team has in their arsenal.
As part of Group B, FunPlus has arguably the easiest road to the knock out stage. Splyce was drawn into the group after play-ins, but the LEC side likely does not represent a threat to FunPlus.
Unorthodox compositions won’t be a problem for FunPlus, as Doinb is known for his variety of picks and strange builds. This is a team that likely will go far in the competition if they can handle the pressure of being on the international stage for the first time.
- The average age of Griffin’s players is 19 years old
- Griffin has qualified to the LCK finals three times in a row
It’s impossible to predict which version of Griffin will go to Worlds. This is a roster than can look like the strongest team in Korea or like something straight out of solo queue. The worst part is that there isn’t any clear explanation for what makes Griffin lose control and throw every preparation out the window. Despite that, Griffin still belongs in the top five.
Griffin came out of Challengers Korea with five players and a dream. Griffin was a team of rookies with a rookie coach that changed the LCK forever. It may sound like an exaggeration, but Griffin’s impact is undeniable. The Korean teams at Worlds are at a higher level because of the fresh perspective that Griffin brought to the league.
Before Griffin joined the LCK, teams were set in their ways and refused to adapt to the new styles that were emerging in other regions. That stubbornness was the reason for the international failures in 2018 that resulted in the LCK losing its third seed in the main event for Worlds 2019.
Despite its domestic dominance and constant innovations, Griffin lacks experience. After one year, they’ve lost their rookie label and are considered an established team in the LCK.
Heading into Worlds, Griffin is bringing what could be the most promising jungler in Korea, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong. Tarzan grew in popularity due to his outstanding results in solo queue, where he is always ranked in the top five. The jungler is the glue that keeps the team together, and he acts as an enabler for the rest of his teammates.
The team is heading to Worlds without its former coach, Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho, who suddenly exited the team on September 26. This could potentially trip Griffin up in their quest for international glory.
5. Royal Never Give Up
- RNG is the only top team to play mostly through the bottom lane
- Worlds is the first international appearance for top laner Langx, who joined the team in spring
- RNG was the favorite to win Worlds in 2018, but got knocked out in the quarterfinals
RNG should be a cautionary tale for G2.
In 2018, RNG was on the golden road after winning back-to-back LPL titles along with MSI. Despite that, RNG fell to G2 in the quarterfinals in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. Invictus Gaming would end up winning the tournament for Chinese LoL fans, but RNG’s glorious story was over.
2019 started with some changes to the roster. The team welcomed a new top laner after Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu retired. In spring, RNG didn’t make it past the second round of playoffs, but by the summer the team was back on track. The final series versus FunPlus showed that RNG’s solo laners were capable of carrying, but also that the team was more than happy to funnel every available resource into Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao.
Uzi has finally recovered from an injury that kept him on the bench in spring. Now, the bottom laner is making up for lost time and carrying his team to victory. RNG revolves around Uzi and will give every in-game coin of gold to him if that will earn them a victory.
That style can make the solo lanes more vulnerable. Top laner Xie “Langx” Zhen-Ying and mid laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao will be under a microscope during the group stage. The solo laners are facing the best players in the world, who also happen to be paired up with some of the world’s best junglers.
Despite that potentially exploitable weakness, RNG is still a frightening opponent. Out of all of the teams that play mostly through the bottom lane, RNG is the strongest. RNG is part of the group of death alongside SKT, Fnatic, and Clutch Gaming, so the team is guaranteed to face brutal competition even before the knockout round.
The 2019 League of Legends World Championship main event starts on October 12 with an opening match between SKT and Fnatic.